Education and culture in social security: Good practices in Latin America

Education and culture in social security: Good practices in Latin America

The lack of social protection is, in many countries, linked to a lack of information. When they have insufficient awareness of their rights and responsibilities, workers and their families cannot understand the importance or reach of social protection. It is therefore necessary to educate people about social security in order to promote their access to benefits, their autonomy and their empowerment.

Social security education leads to the creation of culture, an increased awareness of societal  rights and responsibilities, and of basic concepts, leading to greater trust in social security institutions.
Such education must also incorporate elements of financial literacy, particularly in countries that have brought about reforms offering greater autonomy and responsibility in the management of funds, with a view to simplifying the identification of suitable options.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), social security, as the protection that a society offers its individuals and households, should be known to all as it is a human, social and fundamental right to which all individuals are entitled, and one that guarantees a decent standard of living conditions (ILO, 2009).

While the creation of culture does not feature in the mandates of most social security institutions in the Americas, these institutions are increasingly developing initiatives – ranging from targeted projects to sophisticated educational programmes – to promote social security and provide instruction in the subject.

These actions, shown in Table 1, can be categorized along a number of different lines according to: their target group, the type of social security scheme or service they relate to, or how they are implemented – whether in person or remotely.

The “dimensions” and “categories” listed are not mutually exclusive. Quite the opposite. A social security education programme could encompass a range of initiatives from more than one category, and a single initiative could belong to more than one category within the same dimension. Indeed, an educational strategy incorporating several dimensions and categories tends to be more effective.

Table 1. Social security education dimensions and categories.
Social security education
Dimension Category Description
Target group General Intended to inform the public in general; awareness-raising initiatives and dissemination of basic concepts
Specific Targeted at specific population groups, for example by age or branch of activity.
Social security scheme or service Pensions, unemployment and family benefits Focused on raising awareness among members and beneficiaries of their rights and responsibilities
Risk prevention Intended to promote knowledge of how to prevent illness and risks and, where these have arisen, of one’s associated rights and responsibilities, including medical care where appropriate
Health Focused above all on prevention and awareness of one’s rights in terms of health-care access
Form of implementation In person An emphasis on face-to-face, in-person contact
Remote An emphasis on digital access

The ISSA Guidelines on Communication by Social Security Administrations provides a general framework for the good governance and systematic management of communication practices (ISSA, 2016). The ISSA Guidelines on Information and Communication Technology (ISSA, 2019a), the ISSA Guidelines on Service Quality (ISSA, 2019b) and the ISSA Guidelines on Prevention of Occupational Risks (ISSA, 2019c), among others, also support the roll-out of education and culture-creation programmes.

Experiences of implementing education and culture-creation initiatives in the field of social security

The Good Practices submitted as part of the ISSA Good Practice Award for the Americas competition 2020, alongside other ISSA activities, show clearly that social security institutions are engaged in implementing initiatives related to education and culture. A selection of different experiences, presented by member institutions, are outlined below.


Chile’s Mutual for Safety (Mutual de Seguridad – CChC) has developed specific initiatives aimed at creating a social security culture, both in the field of gender and for the development of critical risk prevention skills, using methodologies geared towards adult learning (CChC, 2020a). These are detailed in Table 2.

The development of critical risk prevention skills was based on a practical training strategy, through the establishment of a critical risk training centre. Its objective was to tackle risks including; falling from  heights, working with electricity, working in confined spaces, and operating machinery and vehicles, whilst reaching different groups of workers across the country.

Practical training seeks to recreate working conditions, containing exposure to the aforementioned critical risks. Two mobile units were introduced, adapted with cutting-edge equipment and technology to maximize the safety of both trainers and trainees during the experiential learning sessions. Each unit is large enough to carry two trainers and all the requisite materials.

The units visited 16 Chilean regions (travelling a total distance of 4,300 km) and trained some 4,000 people over the course of a year, with no incidents occurring during training.

In terms of training in workplace health and safety, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the digitalization of training processes, moving away from a face-to-face strategy towards an entirely online format. This  maintained training continuity for affiliated workers considering embarking on an activity with a critical risk.

A workplace health and safety learning cycle was put in place, incorporating new training methodologies and learning-related technologies. These ranged from virtual courses and microlearning videos to reinforce content through to practical exercises drawing on augmented reality techniques (CChC, 2020b).

Table 2. Experiences in Chile.
Institution Initiative Target group Scheme or service Form of implementation
Mutual for Safety (CChC) Occupational safety and health training in times of COVID-19 Specific Health Remote
Mobile critical risk training centres Specific Health In person

Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, several institutions have developed social security education initiatives, as outlined in Table 3. In 2017, the Social Insurance Fund of Costa Rica (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social – CCSS) organized a round table on pensions, disability benefits and death benefits. A decision was taken to include social security in public education programmes in order to foster an understanding of rights and responsibilities. In 2020, the organization also rolled out a children’s summer workshop entitled “Tito’s pension” (“La pensión de Tito”) to explain the importance of saving for a pension (CCSS, 2020a).

The CCSS also implemented a health-care initiative, with pharmacies , which involved using QR codes as an innovative way of reaching different groups of patients. This was use to  promote therapeutic compliance, provide information on the correct use of medication and thus improving treatment adherence (CCSS, 2020b).

For their part, in 2013 the education unions signed the first collective agreement between two trade unions (and eventually two more) and the Ministry of Public Education (Ministerio de Educación Pública – MEP). This committed the MEP to incorporating social security content, values and strategies into its civic education programmes (MEP, 2020a). Social Security Week was launched and teacher training provided in the field of social security (MEP, 2020b).

Programme content varied according to the age of the target group. Puppet shows and sociodramas were devised for classes in the first cycle (children aged 7 to 10). In the second cycle (ages 10 to 12), reading workshops and round tables were held. While young people in the third cycle and diversified education (ages 12 to 15 and 15 to 18 respectively) worked on national and international readings, origin, characteristics, the importance of social security and regulatory aspects.

In addition, the Pension and Retirement Board of the National Teachers' Union (Junta de Pensiones y Jubilaciones del Magisterio Nacional – JUPEMA) rolled out a pupil-awareness programme with a view to developing adults with greater awareness (JUPEMA 2020). This was based on the premise that today’s schoolchildren will one day be responsible for the care of older people, so it is vital that they understand the rights and needs of this group.

The programme was aimed at pupils in the first and second cycles and delivered by pensioner volunteers. Thirty centres were set up, through which some 2,000 children were trained by the 116 pensioner volunteers taking part in the initiative.

Table 3. Experiences in Costa Rica.
Institution Initiative Target group Scheme or service Form of implementation
Social Insurance Fund of Costa Rica (CCSS) Round table on pensions, disability benefits and death benefits General and Specific Social insurance In person
Virtualization of QR codes in patient education Specific Health Remote
Education unions and Ministry of Public Education (MEP) Incorporation of social security content, values and strategies into civic education programmes; Creation of Social Security Week General and Specific Social insurance In person
Pension and Retirement Board of the National Teachers' Union (JUPEMA) Pupil-awareness programme Specific Social insurance In person


The Mexican Social Security Institute (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social – IMSS) developed an online education platform (CLIMSS) to provide health education to its beneficiaries and the general public (IMSS, 2020), as detailed in Table 4.

The platform was designed to disseminate knowledge that would improve the health of the population. On the basis that the greater a population’s health literacy, the better the health outcomes or health conditions, the challenge was to put into effect a package of training and health-promotion measures that made a positive impact on individual and collective quality of life.

The launch of this tool responded to the need to provide technical, practical, reliable, strategically selected and specialist information through a user-friendly and intuitive platform. Skills-based courses were devised, drawing on adult-learning principles and using gamification as a motivation and retention strategy.

The platform set out to achieve a target of one million registered users and attained five times this figure. As far as course quality is concerned, participants gave the COVID-19 courses a quality rating of 9.3 and the other options a 9.4 rating.


Table 4. Experiences in Mexico.
Institution Initiative Target group Scheme or service Form of implementation
Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) Health literacy. IMSS Massive Online Courses Platform (CLIMSS) General and Specific Health Remote

Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic, the Superintendence of Pensions (Superintendencia de Pensiones – SIPEN) drew up a road map to promote pension education through a series of projects and initiatives, as encapsulated in Table 5. The goal was to provide timely and accurate information about the Dominican Pension System (Sistema Dominicano de Pensiones – SDP) to various segments of society, to raise awareness of the rights and responsibilities of members and beneficiaries, and to promote the inclusion of issues related to social security in the national education system (SIPEN, 2020).

A number of citizen surveys carried out in 2014 and 2015 made it clear that there was a general lack of awareness of rights and responsibilities, as well as of the workings of the SDP. Just 28 per cent of respondents could say what a pension fund administrator did and only 11 per cent knew about disability or old-age benefits.

Three in ten of those surveyed did not know and could not estimate the value of their pension. Some 23 per cent thought that their pension would pay out more than half of their salary.

These results led to a strategic road map for the provision of pension education being incorporated into the country’s Strategic Plan.

The road map comprised a series of initiatives: the creation of a web portal and a pension education school, and the inclusion of pension-related issues in the education system.

A communications plan was put in place; information, teaching and academic resources were created, printed and circulated to the different target groups. Conferences and workshops were arranged for trade unions, professional associations and other private-sector non-governmental organizations, as well as for universities and other educational bodies.

Between 2016 and 2020, as a direct result of these actions, 89 seminars and talks took place, with more than 3,700 participants; 1,348 people graduated from the pension school; and the initiative achieved a satisfaction rating of 97.68 per cent.

Table 5. Experiences in the Dominican Republic.
Institution Initiative Target group Scheme or service Form of implementation
Superintendence of Pensions (SIPEN) Road map to promote pension education General and Specific Social insurance In person and remote


Uruguay’s Social Insurance Bank (Banco de Previsión Social – BPS) developed a package of social security education initiatives as part of its institutional strategy to foster a culture of social security, as shown in Table 6 (BPS, 2020).

The BPS established that there was a need for a tailored approach to each target group. To this end, it rolled out initiatives at several levels: education programmes, general outreach campaigns, training of public officials, strengthening of governance, and interaction with society as a whole.

Fostering a citizens’ ability to exercise their rights was developed through providing knowledge, raising awareness of the responsibilities linked to these rights, encouraging a critical and participatory attitude, and developing a social understanding of the social security system.

The BPS has been working on formal and informal education initiatives since 2007. The strategy deployed in formal education is to include the topic in the curriculum at different levels. Over time, the materials have evolved and expanded, beginning with fourth-year courses (10-year-olds) and gradually filtering through to other year groups, eventually even reaching the early-years curriculum (4-year-olds). In the latter case, the focus was on concepts such as solidarity and the recognition of older people. Content was also developed for adults re-entering the education system.

Table 6. Experiences in Uruguay.
Institution Initiative Target group Scheme or service Form of implementation
Social Insurance Bank (BPS) Understanding your rights and responsibilities General and Specific Social insurance In person

Other countries’ experiences

In addition to the initiatives described above, other Latin American countries also have experience of promoting social security education and culture.

For several years, Argentina’s Social Security Secretariat, in partnership with UNICEF, rolled out its “Programme for a Culture of Social Security” (Programa para una Cultura de la Seguridad Social), which was principally based around a campaign aimed at children. This involved a travelling theatre company performing an interactive play entitled “Super Social Security Mission” (Súper Misión Seguridad Social) in schools and theatres around the country to highlight the importance of social security and the principles of equality and solidarity. Teaching materials were provided via a dedicated website to accompany the play (MTEySS, 2013).

In Colombia, the Ministries of Health and National Education and the Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar, a State body working to improve the wellbeing of families, collaborated on a project to foster a culture of occupational health in schools to raise awareness of this issue among pupils and their families.

Similarly, Paraguay rolled out an initiative to include Social Security as an option in its high-school curriculum. This initiative, which was supported by the country’s Social Insurance Institute (Instituto de Previsión Social – IPS), aimed to provide pupils with a basic knowledge of social security rights and responsibilities.

Critical factors for developing initiatives in the field of social security education and culture

This section summarizes the main factors identified as critical to the successful development of initiatives in the field of social security education and culture. These factors, are present in all the good practices mentioned above, they include:

Support from senior management: This is one of the most important enablers for the development of any education initiative. Such initiatives should be extensive  and last longer than a single administration. Educating people about social security is a gradual process, so it is crucial that a specific budget is set aside for this purpose.

Development of a strategy: Designing a strategy involves being clear about the ultimate objective, setting goals and monitoring the strategy’s progress on a periodic basis. A key determining factor in the strategy is identification of the various target groups and their defining characteristics and the generation of initiatives that are tailored to each of these target groups.

The success of such initiatives also depends on involving specialists in the training process, for example people with experience of the subject matter and providers of cutting-edge technology.

Forging strategic links: Links are generally required with other public bodies (at both a national and a jurisdictional level), such as ministries and education boards, as well as with other organizations with similar interests and/or private stakeholders that can help to implement sophisticated initiatives.


One problem identified is that certain segments of the population have little or no understanding of social security, as a human right and a protection mechanism to which they should and could have access according to the different modalities that exist in the country. In general, the groups with the least knowledge are those that are the most vulnerable and most likely to find themselves unprotected.

It is becoming increasingly important for citizens to know about social security and how it is relevant to them. It is vital for people to understand that social security can have a profound impact on all sectors of society. Thanks to the social security system, workers and their families can access medical care and gain protection against a loss of income, whether for short periods of unemployment, maternity or illness or for longer periods resulting from an accident at work or disability. They should also understand that social security is the reason why older people continue to receive an income, and why children and young people can benefit from specific programmes.

When we talk about fostering a “culture of social security”, this means making the general public aware of the values and principles that underpin such a culture, and making timely and accessible information tools available to all, regardless of age or economic situation.

The aim is for people to see, understand and feel their reality and, as a result, become aware of prevention and welfare issues. To this end, centres of education must be transformed into places of empowerment for students, teachers and other members of the education community, so that they all understand their rights and responsibilities and can therefore exercise their citizenship.

The ultimate goal is to  improve quality of life for current and future generations, facilitate the development of individuals to become more aware of their role  in ensuring their own safety and stability and their greater contribution to the society in which they live.

Education is essential if we are to make the human right to social security, a reality for all.


BPS. 2020. Conoce tus derechos y obligaciones (ISSA webinar). Geneva, International Social Security Association.

CChC. 2020a. Mobile critical risk training centres (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.

CChC. 2020b. Occupational safety and health training in times of COVID-19: Digital transformation in training processes (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.

CCSS. 2020a. Mesa de diálogo sobre Pensión Invalidez y Muerte (ISSA webinar). Geneva, International Social Security Association.

CCSS. 2020b. Use of QR codes in patient education (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.

ILO. 2009. Social Protection Education (Report). Gineva, Internacional Labour Office.

IMSS. 2020. IMSS Massive Online Courses Platform (CLIMSS): Health literacy (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.

ISSA. 2016. ISSA Guidelines on communication by social security administrations. Geneva, International Social Security Association.

ISSA. 2019a. ISSA Guidelines on information and communication technology (Revised and extended edition). Geneva, International Social Security Association.

ISSA. 2019b. ISSA Guidelines on service quality (Revised edition). Geneva, International Social Security Association.

ISSA. 2019c. ISSA Guidelines on prevention of occupational risks (Extended edition). Geneva, International Social Security Association.

JUPEMA. 2020. Programa de sensibilización de estudiantes (ISSA webinar). Geneva, International Social Security Association.

MEP. 2020a. Incorporación de contenidos programáticos sobre valores y estrategias en los que se fundamenta la seguridad social (ISSA webinar). Geneva, International Social Security Association.

MEP. 2020b. Creación de la semana de la seguridad social (ISSA webinar). Geneva, International Social Security Association.

MTEySS. 2013. Se presenta el “Programa para una Cultura de la Seguridad Social“. Buenos Aires, Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security.

SIPEN. 2020. Road map to promote pension education: Projects and initiatives (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.